In 1971, the Uniform Alcohol and Intoxication Treatment act was drafted, so far 34 states have enacted this into their state law. The law aims to approach alcoholism as a public health issue rather than a criminal offense. The act establishes an alcoholism division inside state health or mental health departments. It also establishes and provides funds for regional alcohol treatment facilities.
One class of these facilities is known today as Sobering Centers. Though what exactly are sobering centers? Do they help the Uniform Alcohol and Intoxication Treatment Act prove to be effective legislation? What are their effects on local justice systems?
A sobering center is a short-term treatment facility that helps people who are inebriated but not aggressive recover safely from the debilitating effects of alcohol and, more recently, narcotics. The centers are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with stay times ranging from four to just under 24 hours.
Though it is crucial to know the difference between sobering centers and other sobering-related facilities. The two that are most often confused with sobering centers are detoxification centers and sober living houses. Detoxification centers, over a period of days, assist clients in a gradual and total cessation of alcohol intake while sober living houses provide a group residential setting for those who are in recovery and are drug- and alcohol-free.
Sobering centers Clients are monitored for signs of dangerous or life-threatening effects of intoxication, such as alcohol poisoning and drug overdose. Sobering facilities’ main purpose is to connect clients with various community agencies that can help with substance abuse, mental health, or stabilization.
Sobering centers typically provide screenings for substance use disorders, acute medical and mental health conditions, injuries, and health care services eligibility, as well as brief interventions, such as therapeutic communication, in addition to providing a secure environment in which to recover from intoxication. Direct referrals to substance abuse treatment, shelter, and other assistance are offered. In addition to addressing alcohol inebriation, several programs help individuals who are drunk from drugs like opioids, methamphetamines, and crack cocaine.
The first thing to do is identify what incarceration deprives people off. Arresting people who become publicly intoxicated prevents them from receiving treatment recommendations that could help them avoid being repeating the offense again and improving their quality of life.
The effect of sobering centers can have been well recorded, as the city of Houston Texas documented the effect that the center had in their community in a report. In the report they state
“After the opening of the sobering center, HPD public intoxication jail admissions decreased by 95% over the period 2012 to 2017, from 15 357 to 835. Because the new diversion policy allowed officers community options to manage public intoxication, the sobering center did not absorb the entire decrease in jail admissions.”
According to that same report, they state a secondary benefit of the sobering center model
“The city views this jail diversion program as a cost offset as opposed to cost savings. A jail admission costs $286 per day. At full use, the sobering center would cost $127 per admission”
Not only did the sobering center and the programs they provided help people deal with their addiction in a healthy manner, but also served to save the city money, about $157 per arrest. The County of Santa Cruz has claimed that the saved time has “generated an estimated savings of $83,290 in officer costs.” This accounts for the salary of the officers.
Though one of the key benefits that sobering centers may have in the justice system is not just the savings in money, but also for time. The sobering center approach allows officers to return to the field more quickly to deal with other situations, which is beneficial to the law enforcement community. According to a study done by the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office, they claim,
“The Recovery Center is providing assistance and treatment options to clients and some are taking advantage of those opportunities. Additionally, by using the Recovery Center police officers and deputy sheriffs are saving time. The typical drop-off time at the center is about seven minutes while booking a person into county jail takes about 50 minutes. This has resulted in more police officers and deputy sheriffs on the street to respond to calls and deter crime.”